Sunday, May 29, 2011

licence to steal

The human rights card is becoming torn and tattered by frequent use and yet again it has been played in a case where it has no right to take part.

A single parent of five children received 4 months custody for burglary and another 4 months for dangerous driving. After serving 1 month in prison he has been released on appeal because the judges reckoned that his kids had been deprived of family life under Article 8 of you know what, and the criminal should go home and look after them. The judges have again got it wrong and Article 8 does not apply when someone has been sentenced in accordance with the law. But, leaving that aside, common sense tells us that the children would not have been worse off without him for a while longer.

Burglary is a vile crime, particularly when it is of a home. Though treated as a mixture of trespass and theft, it is more akin to violent assault, or even further along the scale towards rape, as it can cause the victims great harm and suffering for the rest of their lives. In this case it was an almost comic burglary of a rugby club, stealing only some chocolate, then driving off, clipping a police car, driving through red lights, and ending up down a cul de sac where dad of the year was arrested. Not showing much promise for a new career in crime. But the intent was there and the sentence was by no means excessive, to deter him and others from further attempts. Once the propensity to burgle is established, the target soon changes to homes where the crime becomes so much more serious.

Those who want to adopt or foster children undergo stringent examination to assess their suitability. But a criminal is taken out of prison so that he can care for children that he has already shown he does not care enough about, leaving them whilst he went off for the night to steal. He didn’t have much regard for their welfare or safety and he knew the risk he was taking if he got caught.

His children have the right not to be influenced by a criminal and would have managed without him while he served his full, but brief, prison sentence. A lot of children suffer much worse things as a result of what their parents do. Children can't choose their parents or their parents' behaviour. They play the cards they are dealt and we can't keep excusing the parents because of what might happen to the children as a result of their actions.

His mitigation for the crime was a low income, which would not have been given much weight by the sentencing judge, and yet he fathered five children, showing that his paucity of planning capability was not restricted to his criminal activities.

The absurdity of this case was compounded when the appeal judges ordered the sentence to be suspended. Oh right. So now if he commits another offence he will go to prison. Wait a moment; he's got children; so he won't. As he well knows. What, Justices, was the point of that ?

Finally, they told the court that criminals should not think that children can provide some sort of licence to commit offences with impunity.

Children don’t provide that licence. The appeal court just did.



At July 06, 2011 11:00 am , Anonymous Bagpuss said...

Er, no.
The issue wasn't that you can't send a parent to prison, it was that the original couert did not consider the human right issue. All they needed to have done was to include in their sentancing remarkls something to show that they had considered the impact of the sentance on him and his chaildren, and note that this interfered with their Art. 8 rights, but that that interference was jusitifed by the need to protect society / adequately punish the offender etc.

There is no licence to commit crime, there is simply a reminder to sentancing courts that they have an obligation to consider human rights issues and make it clear that they have done so.

There is exactly the same issue in Care cases. Where a child is taken into care, there is always an interference with their, and their parent's , Art.8 rights. This does not stop court's making Care Orders (or adoption orders) as the Art.8 rights are not absolute. It simply menas that they have to be considered and some (usually quite brief) reason given as to why they are being interfered with.

At July 06, 2011 3:24 pm , Blogger call it justice said...

What you say, Bagpuss, is very interesting and correct in that the original court should have said clearly that they had taken into account Article 8 when sentencing.

But I would still say that, despite that, the appeal court judges should not have applied Article 8 because the prison sentence was in accordance with the law and necessary for the prevention of crime.


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